The New York Cosmos have signed Goalkeeper Kyle Reynish.
Nonetheless, the FIFA inquiry makes Qatar more vulnerable to criticism of its hosting of the world’s largest sporting tournament, including the rights and working conditions of the country’s foreign labor force, who constitute a majority of the population as well as human rights following the sentencing to life in prison in November of a poet for a poem that was critical of Sheikh Hamad and the royal family.
“FIFA reviews Qatar’s World Cup bid” by James M. Dorsey on The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer
When I started gathering notes for what I thought would become a small book (longish essay) on the Cosmos, I realized quickly that the historical narrative of the Cosmos and of the NASL was really the story of Pelé. The accounts of the Cosmos in Gavin Newsham’s and Clive Toye’s books (and even Shep Messing’s autobiography) are really books about how Pelé came to America and changed the game. Pelé, the messiah of American soccer. But what I noticed was that the New York Cosmos were more successful on the field after Pelé retired. For the three seasons immediately following Pelé retirement the Cosmos were nearly unstoppable winning titles each year except for 1979 when they were eliminated from the playoffs by the Vancouver Whitecaps in what might have been the most dramatic match in NASL history. Why were the Cosmos so good after Pelé?
Last season, I followed the New York Red Bulls closely, attending almost half the home matches at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, and watching all the other matches on TV. Up until the arrival of Thierry Henry in New York, I had been a disaffected MetroStars fan. When Red Bull rebranded the franchise, I walked away. Not only did I stop watching the former MetroStars, I lost interest in the MLS. That is until Thierry Henry pulled on the red, white, and yellow jersey with the number 14 halfway through the 2010 season.
Henry got off to a rocky, injury-prone start with the Red Bulls. At least that’s how I remember it. I wasn’t yet at the point of following the franchise closely. I allowed myself to be only a casual observer. Perhaps I caught a few of those 2010 matches on TV, I don’t recall which. When the Red Bulls and Thierry Henry made the playoffs, I started making an effort to watch the games at a local sports bar. They didn’t go very far that year, stopped by San Jose.
The next season, 2011, I paid more attention to regular season play, catching Red Bull matches when it was convenient. At the time, the only way for me to watch MLS matches at home was streaming on ESPN 3, and it seemed like most of those matches were the LA Galaxy versus somebody, so even though I was casually following Thierry Henry and Red Bull, I felt like I knew the Galaxy better and wasn’t surprised when the Galaxy eliminated the Red Bulls in the conference semifinals.
2012 was the year I became a Red Bulls fan. I subscribed to MLS Live and bought a partial season ticket to Red Bull arena. My plan was to watch Thierry Henry and his Red Bulls through the course of a whole season. What I realized that while Thierry Henry was a pleasure to watch (a magician with the ball, a dancer, an entertainer), the team played better as a unit without him. Early in the season Henry suffered a hamstring injury. During the six weeks that Henry was out, the Red Bulls put together their best run of games, a run that would carry them through to the playoffs despite a limp finish.
As much as I enjoyed watching Henry with the ball, I wondered several times during the 2012 season if the Red Bulls wouldn’t be better off without the magician on their team. When he was on the field, everything went through him. He was in charge. When he wasn’t on the field, the Red Bulls played differently, more cohesively as a unit. Perhaps the Red Bulls without Henry wouldn’t have been as successful in the end. It’s hard to say. Henry did so much when he was on the field. His performance overshadowed everyone else. Even Kenny Cooper, the leading goal scorer for the Red Bulls, could not extricate himself from Henry’s reputation as the man who sets things up. Henry’s assists were sometime so spectacular that Cooper’s role as finisher appeared secondary, merely an effect of the cause, an extension of Henry’s genius. Cooper remained the understudy. Such is the effect of greatness on those around them.
This year, the Red Bulls have a new management, and a new coach. They are building a new team around Thierry Henry. Will this be the year the Red Bulls get it right and go all the way to the MLS Cup? Who knows? Looking back over the MetroStars / Red Bull history, it’s a record of “almosts”. The team has a habit of choking in the quarter-finals, a record which is especially embarrassing considering that they have the highest payroll in the MLS. And I suspect that the organization’s lack of success is the driving force behind the MLS’s push to get an additional expansion franchise in New York City. The big question is whether the MLS will be able to get the Cosmos. And when. Meanwhile, many New York and Long Island soccer fans will be cultivating a new interest in the league with an old name, the North American Soccer League, which just might benefiting from a burst of momentum in the growth of American interest in soccer that could propel them and their teams into challenging the MLS for the hearts and attention of spectators across the land.
Journalist and author Philippe Auclair, the man behind the interesting book Cantona: The Rebel Who Would Be King has come up with another insight into one of the greatest foreign stars to grace the Premier League.
Thierry Henry: Lonely at the Top is an accurate portrayal of the French striker’s journey in his career.
When we sit down and put together the entire league schedule, one of the top priorities is slotting in our national television partners,” Courtemanche said.
There is a push-pull that occurs between the league and its broadcast partners when drawing up the schedule, one that essentially pits attendance versus television ratings.
“If I had my druthers, a lot of times I’d put MLS games on at five in the afternoon and go from five to 7:30,” Miller said. “But because of attendance considerations, and weather situations, they would rather play their games in prime-time under the lights where they can maximize their attendance. We certainly understand that.”
MLS executive vice president Dan Courtemanche quoted in “Will Major League Soccer ever have major league television ratings?” by By Seth Vertelney for Goal.com.
After returning home from my team’s futsal victory over Rush Academy, I settled in with a beer to watch Liverpool, Norwich City. Luis Suárez was in the news again this week for admitting (what everyone already knew) that he dove in the box in a match against Stoke City last October.
Liverpool Manager, Brendan Rodgers had this reaction:
I think it is wrong… Certainly from our perspective it is unacceptable. It is not something we advocate here.
“Our ethics are correct. I’ve spoken to Luis and he is totally understanding, and knows where I’m coming from as manager of the club. This is a big club and whatever people do say goes around the world, and what was said was wrong and not acceptable – he takes that and we move on.
“There is no one bigger than the club or the club’s image. The comments, from our point of view as a club, are not what we would want to hear. This is something which was obviously wrong and is not something we associate with as a club of this standing.” [See The Independent, 17 January 2013]
And I as I watched Suárez dance with the ball, I was finding it difficult to maintain my distaste for the player. If you watch a player long enough, especially one as talented as Suárez, you’re bound to build up a positive impression that outweighs his misdemeanors.
Later last night I watched Ghana v. Democratic Republic of Congo. The famous handball by Suárez that effectively led to the elimination of Ghana from the 2010 World Cup was referenced by the commentator, but not mentioning Suárez by name.
In that match a Ghanaian player tugged at the shirt of Congolese Mputu while they were in the box. The shirt tug was blatant, but not enough to topple Mputu. However, the player from DR Congo went down like he’d been hit over the head with a bat. The dive was dramatic, almost laughable. But the referee pointed to the spot. Mputu stepped up and leveled the score at 2-2.
The situation was analogous to Suárez’s “fall” in the box at the beginning of a second match against Stoke City on Boxing Day. Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross had a fist full of Suárez’s shirt as the striker entered the box. As soon as Suárez was in, he dove like a swan and the referee pointed at the spot.
Such tactics, while not pretty, are part of the game. The lesson to be learned for the spectator is that shirt pulling in the box is worse than diving to draw attention to the foul. Evidently it’s okay to dive if you are properly fouled.
Since I have no cable or satellite TV, I rely on the Internet to stream soccer onto my high definition widescreen monitor. Now with high speed Internet, the images are crisp, detailed, vital. Even though on-demand, streaming content is how we will all experience “TV” in the future, the old fashioned model of channels and viewing packages is still the mode that the big telecommunications corporations force on us because it ensure maximal economic exploitation of “the consumer”, forcing them to buy that which they do not want in order to get what they do.
The result of my choice to take my soccer streaming (not stirred) is that if the big match is being broadcast on a “TV channel” the streaming broadcast is either blacked-out or delayed. Delays vary depending on contractual agreements with the broadcaster.
For example, yesterday’s match between Liverpool and Norwich City was (probably) broadcast live on Fox Soccer Channel. I suppose that they wish to encourage me to watch that channel by delaying access to the match on Fox Soccer 2go until 11:59pm, a bit late to settle down for a soccer match, especially when one’s youth team is playing early on a Sunday morning. I could be watching Liverpool, Norwich City early in the morning, but will save it for the afternoon after the futsal match between the Strikers and Rush Academy.
I don’t mind the delays in viewing matches. In fact, I’ve become used to watching matches whenever it is convenient for me rather than watching them live. Having the power of “on demand” lets me arrange my day how I want without having to conform to a broadcast schedule or worry about programming some device to record the match for me. The match is there when I want it. (If I was bored, I could go back and watch the entire 2012 MLS season. All the matches are still there waiting for me to watch them. Other services have stricter limits on access to the past.)
However, knowing that I will want to watch Liverpool, Norwich City, I avoid looking at certain web sites so I don’t inadvertently learn the final score. So until I watch the match, I can’t look at Twitter or read the football news or even look at the titles of the soccer podcasts I listen to. For the duration of the delay, I confine myself to an information bubble. I strap on blinders and plug my ears. The match is so much more exciting when I am in ignorance of the outcome.
The 48 hour delay of certain matches on MLS Live is a particular hardship. Having to go without soccer news or glancing at Twitter or listening to podcasts for a whole two days puts me in football limbo. But there’s an upside. This forced ignorance, this withdrawal from the world allows me to think about other things, read books, watch French films.
The cable guy had our high speed Internet up and running in time for the opening match of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations between host South Africa and Cape Verde in their Barcelona-esque jerseys emblazoned with stars on the shoulders like 11 Catalan generals. The Cape Verde players even had Spanish-sounding names like Mendes. Really Portuguese names, since that’s the official language of the island nation.
Football is a geography lesson. Unlike other American sports which (despite international participation and interest) don’t lead their fans to look beyond our boarders, soccer encourages its fans to be global citizens.
Cape Verde is a scattering of 10 (17 if you include the really tiny ones) islands off the west coast of Africa, about mid-way up just off that bulge in Africa’s right side. And like other island nations, Cape Verde has a small population, barely that of a mid-sized American city like Baton Rouge. Officially the number is just over 500,000 souls.
As I watched Cape Verde play, I recalled that the French cinema vérite filmmaker Chris Marker had traveled there with his camera and filmed people waiting on a jetty on Fogo.
How long have they been there waiting for the boat, patient as pebbles but ready to jump? They are a people of wanderers, of navigators, of world travelers. They fashioned themselves through cross-breeding here on these rocks that the Portuguese used as a marshaling yard for their colonies. A people of nothing, a people of emptiness, a vertical people.
The match between Cape Verde and South Africa ended in a nil-nil draw. The commentators agreed that it was a good result for the men in red and blue with the stars on their shoulders.
The USL PDL schedule for 2013 was released yesterday. The Long Island Rough Riders play in the Atlantic Division of the PDL. The season starts in May, so there’s plenty of time get season tickets.
Last year, I started following the Rough Riders and was impressed with the level of play, both the men’s and women’s teams. Most of the players are college kids keeping their form so they will be ready for fall soccer. A few others (a max of 3?) are experienced players who have had success at various levels and (for whatever reason) are continuing their career at the amateur level.
The Rough Riders can claim to have helped along the careers of some of the biggest names in American soccer including current Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese and Cosmos defender Carlos Mendes.
This morning I’m waiting for the cable company to come and install high speed internet. I’ve been getting by for nearly 10 years with DSL with a max download rate of 1Mbps which (believe it or not) is good enough to watch streaming soccer in pristine clarity… half the time. When the bit rate drops the image gets a little fuzzy, but it’s no worse than the pre-HD days. With my low bit rate connection I’ve been able to enjoy MLS Live, ESPN3, and Fox Soccer 2go and the many free streams available, but what didn’t work was the live feeds from the NASL. I could watch delayed replays if I let the download buffer for 10 or 15 minutes before starting to view, but I could never get the live feed to stream fluidly. It was like watching a slide show. All that ends today, when I enter the 21st century officially with high speed streaming.
One of the reasons I’ve put up with the slow download speed and poor (but certainly watchable) video quality is my DSL provider had a contract to stream ESPN3 and the cable company did not. Well, finally the local cable provider can stream ESPN3 and so, later today, I’ll be able to watch the Africa Cup of Nations opening matches in their pristine clarity.
I saw a tweet this morning complaining about EPSN’s decision only to make the Africa Cup of Nations available on ESPN3 and not on one of the “TV” channels. I can understand the pain of the soccer enthusiast who doesn’t have access to ESPN3, but I think streaming soccer will probably be the way most of us get our footy fix in the coming years.
Fox Soccer lost its rights to broadcast the EPL next season to NBC Sports. And there are rumors floating around that Fox Soccer is going to reinvent itself as something else and get out of the soccer broadcast business. What that means for Fox Soccer 2go, I don’t know.
I don’t subscribe to TV so it’s not clear to me yet if I’ll be allowed to make use of NBC Sports streaming services which appear to be limited to people who pay for cable TV. So I might have to resort to finding a soccer pub to follow my favorite EPL sides next fall. But isn’t that the best way to watch football? In the pub with fellow soccer enthusiasts and supporters. I think so. And that gives me a project to work on in the coming months. Compiling a listing of soccer-friendly pubs on Long Island. And converting a few if need be.